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Tualatin counts down to giant pumpkins

11th annual West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta returns Oct. 18

Photo Credit: FILE PHOTO - A record 20 giant pumpkins are expected to make their way to this year's Pumpkin Regatta, meaning a record number of paddlers will get to partake in the fun.With the weather as nice as it’s been, you might have forgotten that it’s actually October. Which, in Tualatin, means that it’s just about time for the weirdest and most spectacular festival of all.

In its 11th year, the West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta hits Tualatin on Oct. 18, this time with more pumpkins than ever. A festival that typically sees between 10 and 16 giant pumpkins, 20 are expected to arrive this year for the event, which special events coordinator Heidi Marx suspects is due to a good and extended growing season.

Regardless of the reason, more 1,000-pound pumpkins means greater rowing chances for the 29 people who signed up to participate. And yet, even with the extra pumpkins, Marx anticipates only about 15 people will actually be able to paddle after the traditional heats of growers versus each other, sponsors versus special guests and Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue versus Portland District-Army Corp of Engineers races.

“It gets bigger and better every year,” Marx said.

Initially, the regatta grew out of an idea from the Pacific Giant Vegetable Growers, who wanted a way to celebrate their growing season, taking to Tualatin’s Lake of the Commons in hollowed-out, half-ton pumpkins, but the event ended up being too good to let go.

“It’s definitely one of the most unique festivals in the Northwest in the fall,” said Marx. “I mean, how often can you see (someone) paddling a 1,000-pound pumpkin across a lake dressed as the tooth fairy?”

As in the past, this year’s regatta participants are required to wear costumes.

And while many traditions remain the same in this ever-unique festival, this year does feature some new activities.

The first happens this Saturday, Oct. 11, when a special Pumpkin Regatta geocaching event begins. Geocaching is done by using clues and navigation devices to find hidden treasure, whatever that may be. Participants can either meet at 9 a.m. at the Lake of the Commons, or clues can be downloaded from the geocaching event page that morning. (Visit tualatinoregon.gov, then go to the Pumpkin Regatta page for the link.)

The first 300 people to successfully complete the challenge will receive a special edition Pumpkin Regatta coin.

At the regatta itself, visitors will find face painting; pumpkin crafts, carving and decorating; a bounce house; costume contests; and clown shows. Pumpkin golf also hits the Commons this year, where participants try to hit floating pumpkins in the lake with floating golf balls. And if golf isn’t your thing, don’t worry, because a set of bowling pins will be ready for you to knock down with small, dense pumpkins perfect for rolling.

Should you prefer to stay a safe distance away from the pumpkin sports, world-class pumpkin carver Tim Pate will be working on a 300-pound masterpiece that will then be auctioned off.

If it still happens that none of these events strike your fancy, just imagine your costumed neighbors rowing across a lake while sitting inside pumpkins. Worth it.

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